Shop front in the summer

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Another word from Peter

Our guest blogger is back, Peter Underwood with his narrow boat Blackberry way writes;

In praise of hirers

I like meeting hirers on our travels around the system – quite miss them in the winter months, in fact.

Hirers are almost always cheerful, happy and determined to enjoy themselves no matter what the weather. They come in all shapes, sizes and nationalities and are usually happy to talk to anyone they meet.

I wish the same were true of all private boats, some will pass with their eyes averted and nose in the air, even if you call out a hearty ‘good afternoon,’ and I sometimes wonder if they are actually enjoying the canals.

Back to those lovely hirers. I am especially fond of those groups of young fit people who are cruising the wide canals at the same time as we want to move Blackberry Way through a flight of locks – it halves the work.

Most inexperienced hirers happily admit they have things to learn and just a few weeks ago we came up the Hatton flight on the Grand Union with a lovely family from Hamburg who were delighted to learn how you can take two boats into a wide lock side by side and avoid all the hassle of one going in first and having to hug one lock wall while the other follows.

Sometimes their energy is too much and when they wanted to follow the 21 Hatton locks with another 21 at Lapworth, following a pint in the pub, we decided to let them continue unaccompanied. Just a week or so ago Tomas and his family sent us a collection of pictures they had shot during their adventure along with an e-mail thanking us for our help and advice.

Even better in a way is the experienced hirer who prides his or her self in their knowledge and techniques. With them we can relax and chat as we go through the lock flights.

And that brings me to the point on this ramble. More experienced hirers are often likely to avoid the pressure of completing cruising rings and settle for a slower run that allows them to take in the beauty of a particular stretch of canal without working many hours a day because they have to make it back to the hire base.

Given the price of fuel and the fact that some simply find it stretches them too far I would like to see more hire companies take the effort to explain other cruising options and even dissuade hirers from a hard-working week completing the Four Counties or any other ring.

It would mean a bit of research but they could easily recommend week long journeys that meant travelling two or three hours a day, taking in fascinating local sights and relaxing in beautiful surroundings.

Rather than setting a route that means either 10 or even 12 hours in motion every day for seven days how about one that says, “Get up late and enjoy the walk down the lane to the local bakery before popping down three locks to enjoy a stroll around the gardens of this National Trust house. There is a smashing butcher in the next village along and his steaks are well worth buying for the barbecue you might enjoy at the picnic area half a mile along the canal.”

The hirer may only travel a few miles and come back the same way but I bet they go back more relaxed and more in love with the canals than if they return home exhausted and aching from all the effort.

Of course it requires good local knowledge but most of the small and personal hire firms have this already in their heads.

At least it should be an option – do you want fast and furious or slow and easy?


If you agree with Peter or not, let me know your thoughts.




  1. There are a few friendly owners out there, I know and have met some of them. We are experienced boaters and hire because we have an RCI timeshare that allows us to trade for available timeshare boats around the system, so no pressure to use up all our holidays on boats if we want to hop on a flight now and then. My sympathy for boat owners who encounter the small number of hirers who show little respect for the boat or the canals. I have little respect however for owners who spread their boats along moorings with 20ft-30ft gaps, wasting rings and stopping boats mooring next to them, this is no use to anyone and forces experienced boaters to head for good moorings by mid afternoon instead of getting more cruising time done in order to get a decent space. Norbury's trick of painting their fleet to look like private boats is a good idea and got us talking to quite a few boaters who would have otherwise avoided us..! Paul (Cannock)

  2. Thanks for your feed back Paul

    I agree with your comments about private boats and the gaps that are left in popular mooring locations, it is common place with sea going boats to 'raft up' (breast up)with any boat that is on a busy mooring, I think that in the future it will be more common place for this to happen on the canal as more boats come on to the system.

    When I started hiring out boats I made the descision that they would all look like private boats, my reasoning behind this was that if I were hiring a boat I would want it to feel like my own and not a hire boat and I think that all of our customers prefer it, the boats certainly come back in a very good condition and the comments that we get all positive.


  3. Hi Simon, thanks for the reply.

    I can also see the 'raft up' situation happening in the future, probably in a last minute scramble to the bar at Audlam, I'm not sure the private boaters will be overjoyed to have a beaten up hire cruiser scrape-up alongside their new £3k paint job though.

    We hired out your Phoenix a few years ago and thouroughly enjoyed it, the best reverse gear and stopping distance of any boat I've known. Wrenbury and back was an easy week cruise, everyone assumed we owned the boat and were envious of the fact that we appeared to have a mooring at Norbury Junction as the boats livery suggested.

    We hope to return for a late/early season mid week break when time permits.

    Paul (Cannock)

  4. I have long thought the 'ring' culture was wrong and that first time hirers shouldn't be encouraged to do them.

  5. We did exactly that when we hired - travelled loads, reseted little. However, we have since learnt the error of our ways, we do rush a little between shows, but taking it easy is the order of the day......

    Hire boaters certainly need to be given advice on this subject! Could not agree more.